Saturday, July 30, 2005

A World of pure...something

Went to see "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory", as have a large portion of the US population. My take? Wasn't bad. Had some great bits. The kids were appropriately wicked (or good), the factory was wonderful and scary, and Depp was NOT Michael Jackson -- the soft voice he used was the only thing similar and beyond that, nada. If I hadn't heard the hype I wouldn't have given it more than a passing thought.

If you can still be spoiled for this movie, stop now, or shut up later.


Depp was decidedly creepy until the end, when he finally washed off the chalk white makeup. The Oompa loompa production numbers made me wince, especially when they (well, "he", since it was only the one guy) were doing the "Queen" take off -- I'd know Freddie Mercury anywhere. I could have honestly skipped them and never known they were gone. My favorite moment was the tv scene, with the strong "2001" homage and the white goggled faces.

I agree with those people who didn't like the backstory "explanation" for Wonka. I liked the image of the torn out of place house, but the whole thing smacked strongly of "oh, we just gotta explain this guy" klutziness. I could have swallowed it if it had ended a little better. In the reunion scene, Wonka/Depp looked as if he was thinking "I have to hug Christopher Lee and he smells like old people, no soap." If the Wonka weirdness had melted just a little there, and some humanness had shown through, I might have bought it. I wonder if it was Burton's choice or Depp's. Anyway, why could he say "moms and dads" and yet not say "parents'?

I was won over by Charlie, though. I believed him. I believed his attachment to his parents and grandparents. I loved the bent, broken down house he lived in. I loved his toothpaste cap building hobby. And Helen Bonham Carter did not make me shudder the way she usually does. I actually liked her this time, which I haven't done since she played Lady Jane Grey a million years ago.

What was fun was seeing James Fox again -- I loved him in Thoroughly Modern Millie and I like seeing him pop up here and there. Other entries in the "spot the actor" game were Elaine Hendrix as Mrs. Beauregarde (remember her as Meredith from the Lohan version of The Parent Trap?) The blue eyeshadow was unforgiveable. I didn't even recognize Christopher Lee at first -- all I saw were his teeth. And it took me a while to place Noah Taylor (Mr. Bucket) from his role as Bryce in the Lara Croft movies.

Summary -- it had some laughs, some painful music, and some great effects, but lost me in the character development part. Depp was doing such a good job being a weirdo but didn't manage to be human enough to fit with the backstory. The backstory itself was a sorta-nice try but (sorry Christopher Lee) could have been cut.

Now I have to get the book. Just what I need, another book.

Previews for The Corpse Bride looked good, although I may wait for video. Also saw previews for Pride and Prejudice. I'm highly trepidatious about it, because, like that rotten version of Emma they did, I know they gutted the book for movie making and I love that book (and know it far too well). If I see it, I will just have to pretend it's just a Regency based romance that's a little similar to P&P. But for Donald Sutherland and Judi Dench, it's probably worth seeing. Mansfield Park was actually fairly good, because the book is my least favorite of Austen's work (you just wanna slap Fanny Price after a while) and I didn't mind transforming Fanny into something other than a doormat, and Sense and Sensibility is one of my favorites (mostly for Emma Thompson and Alan Rickman, although Greg Wise didn't hurt my feelings one bit.)

Friday, July 29, 2005

Of Snarks and Snores

My much beloved and very nearly perfect Husband has developed a problem. He has begun to snore. Now, my own father was a prodigous snorer, capable ot terrifying small children and scaring the dog. Whenever I had to sleep in the same room with my dad, it was always a matter of meditation. The snoring became a rythmic chant, rather like shamans pounding drums filled with dried beans while blowing on shawms and crumhornes. I would wake only when he would pause.

I never met my father-in-law, but his own legendary snoring was reported as sufficient to draw complaints about the noise from the neighboring airport. I must admit to having done a bit of snoring myself, although I'm told mine are rather cat-like (having 6 cats on rotating sleep schedules has provided me much data on that subject) and tend to be cold or sinus infection related.

Husband always had the ability to snore. He just didn't that often. In the early days of our marriage, it happened on rare occasions -- he would roll onto his back in the royal "I own this fucking bed, minion, get thee to the couch" position. Now, the couch is owned by The Cats, and not only do The Cats snore, they don't like to share the couch.

Once His Highness had flung out his limbs and tossed back his head, the trumpeting would begin. An elbow in the fore head is sometimes enough to wake me but not enough to stun me until I fell asleep again, so the snoring noises would assure I'd remain awake (and slightly, shall we say, "miffed". I am not a graciously awakened person.) I was a good and patient wife the first few times, but time and sleep deprivation will suck the generosity out of a saint, much less a titanium bitch-inclined woman like me, so I created the "Get the hell back on your side of the bed or you're waking up in the bathtub" double kick, half gainer-shove snoring cure. He'd roll over into a fetal position, semi-consiously rub his calves, and quietly subside to sleep once more. (He only asked about the bruises once.)

Then, as the years went by, he learned to snore lying on his side, so snoring happened more frequently. Since he falls asleep much faster than I do, the resulting gasps, snorts, gurgles and "weeee weeee snirk"s would keep me awake. Inflicting bodily harm, however personally satisfying it might be in the short run, inevitably resulted in pouting in the morning (I'd rather shoot myself in the head than deal with pouting in the morning. I barely can deal with breathing in the morning. See the above about awakening...) So, I evolved the "Oh I love you SO much" hug/squeeze/choke-hold. A 30 second treatment with this technique effectively cut off all air. Upon release, the snorer would have awakened only enough to know that he didn't want his precious air supply interrupted again, turn onto his stomach, and let the trapdoor to dreamland open beneath him. All would be quiet.

Now, we are 12 years into our marriage. I invariably take between 30 minutes to an hour to drop off to sleep, during which time there can be no light, no movement, no sound and no cats walking on my head or killing socks in the next room. Husband becomes unconscious upon reaching a horizontal position. Once he is asleep, he immediately begins to snore. His timbre and volume have increased and the vibrational capacity of his head must have expanded. He can lie face down in the pillow and still snore. He can snore, loudly and distinctly, even when I am pressing the pillow OVER his head. Adding more pillows doesn't produce a distinct improvement in this technique.

I've found no sure remedy except waiting it out, or, as a last resort, retreating minion-like to the couch -- that is, when The Cats will let me. Otherwise, I sit up and write snarky weblog entries.

small print: Husband does not suffer from sleep apnea. He is not overweight, a smoker, or an indulger in alcohol, all of which can cause severe snoring or cause other sleep problems. He sleeps amazingly well. He is actually disgustingly healthy and normal. He just does this (I'm certain) to annoy me, because he CAN.

Geetar II

Well, I've been griping about my guitar lessons for about 6 weeks now. Here's what I'm talking about.

This is my venerable old 6 string classical. It cost me $80 and came pre-beat-to-hell, which saved me the trouble of doing it all myself. It was made in Taiwan. It's a "Gremlin". That's about all I know about it.















Ophelia does not think much of my musical aspirations.






Bennie, however, is always very pleased when I take the guitar out of the case.










Because I'm a real glutton for punishment (yours, not mine) here are a couple (I hope) sound files.






Me trying to play the guitar

Me Singing

I did both sitting in the bedroom using my laptop (which is the humming noise you hear) with the crappy pick-up mike from my tuner for the guitar sample, and a cheap handheld for the voice. The voice track is REALLY LOUD, so be warned. I suspect you have to download them to play on your own .wav player.


Inserting the guitar into your mouth would improve your singing immensly.

Battle of the Guitar

Ok, I've got G major down. I can move to the A minor without looking (most of the time). I can play A, A7, C, E, E minor, D and D7. I'm working on D minor. I now have three permanently numb fingertips on my left hand. As long as the song is in slow 4/4 time, I can sort of play a song.

F is not working so well. I have to do origami fingers to play an F. It seems I have a choice of which of the first two strings (that are supposedly both held down by my first finger) will buzz. My second finger is still bumping the second string, which does not make for a nice chord. My little finger actually rests on top of my third finger in a very weird way. I need another joint in my forearm to circle above the fretboard at the right angle. Is F really necessary? I dread the whole barre chord thing (happy, Brendan?). I'm looking at B major, but I'm not holding out much hope.

I've actually practiced enough to have my first guitar related injury. Yeah, the newly forming callous on that left index finger started to split. It's got papercuts beat all to hell. Happily, I'm not such a masochist (aka, I'm a wimp) as to keep playing when I perceive injury, and after a day and a half it has closed up again. It was small (I thought I'd gotten a splinter at first).

These are the teeny, tiny Waterloos and Trafalgars of my life.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Still

I keep finding little bits of Alex -- I deleted his old email address from my address book. I removed mentions of him from email. I hear a train.

I have two questions left. How can I be so wound up and connected to someone I only talked to via a keyboard and a computer screen, and how could he have killed himself when he could engender such love from a stranger that way?

Stinky People

Michael is suffering from localized air pollution, the kind many of us notice in offices, malls, elevators, and pretty much anywhere there are people. You know what I mean. There are simply too many people who believe EVERYONE should know what they smell like.

And I don't mean the grungy unwashed, either. Usually offenders are women with manicures and salon hair, often with sparkly jewelry, although plenty of men offend with cologne. Age isn't a constant factor although older women tend to be most noticeable (because, perhaps, their sense of smell is diminished?) and younger men (because...I dunno, they think it's like deer musk and attracts potential sex partners?) But you've experienced it, right? That vague feeling of nausea followed by the sensation that invisible hands are reaching up through your nose and crushing your brain between flower-soaked palms? Ghosts of perfume where there are no people? Lightheadedness and vapor trails when you step out of elevators?

Why is this? In centuries previous, royalty often scented heavily because, well, they didn't bathe. Bathing was a little more complicated then, after all. They lived in a world of unpleasant human and animal smells and kept sweet scents around to mask those. They also were limited to natural scents produced from oils, flowers, herbs, and spices.

But now? Now I ponder. In younger people, it's sex and/or inexperience. Girls want to smell like they are in heat, and boys want to smell -- I dunno, just to let girls know they can? Soap and hot water, fellas, soap and hot water in copious amounts applied to pits, ass and crotch -- that's an aphrodisiac. Brushing your teeth helps, too. Don't use chicken flavored toothpaste.

I'm a little more scent-sensitive than most, I've learned. Once upon a time I loved scented candles. In the last few years , however, the chemicals used to make them have changed and just walking passed one sends a spike through my head. Perfume counters are nightmarish. I wear relatively little perfume, leaning more toward essential oils (no patchouli!) and some old-fashioned perfumes. It doesn't really matter much, though, as my personal chemistry pretty much destroys perfume I wear anyway, or at least reduces it significantly. Scents I like and that like me tend to be pricy (in a relative sense of course...$150 for stinky water is just incomprehensible to me. Soap is so much cheaper and you're paying for the hot water anyway) so I use them sparingly. I also have a few perfume-adverse friends, so I'm cautious for their sake.

I have stinky people in my life. One is a lady I work with. You know she's coming down the hallway even when you are around the corner. You know when she's been to the coffee machine. The other is a member of the chorus I sit near. At a few rehearsals she wore some kind of artificial jasmine-catlitter scent. You could smell her in the bass section. The third time we asked her to wash it off. It was literally painful.

I worry sometimes that I'm stinking other people out, because I like strong, spicy scents. I have long hair I usually wear loose, so scent can carry on it. I have, luckily enough, three rules. 1) if I can smell my own perfume 10 minutes after I put it on, there may be a problem. 2) if the cats wrinkle their noses, hiss, and run away, I may have on too much 3) if the Husband can smell me from more than 2 feet away, I need a shower.

Of course, if my own eyes start watering, I don't need to ask anyone else.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Baby, it's hot ...well, you know

We keep one of those electric thermometers hidden behind the front door, the kind that have a long wire you run to where you want to measure temperature. We keep it there for making those last minute decisions about whether we really WANT to go outside. Our particular wire resides tucked behind an old fashioned alcohol thermoter fastened to the inside wall of the little porch that protects our front door.

This afternoon when the dog announced a severe gottapotty warning, I thought I'd run out quickly and get the mail. It was indeed a quick trip. The concrete pad that supports the mailboxes was blazing hot and I was barefoot. I learned I can stand 3 feet away on the comparatively cooler grass and telepathically levitate the mail out of the box. I can't, however, levitate myself up the front walk, but I can hop-skip-and-jump my way inside pretty damn quick. I didn't actually get a blister, but I've got scorch marks.

Once returned to the blessing of cool tile floors and a/c, I peeked at that thermometer. 102 degrees, it says. This is in the shade, as no sun gets far inside that little porch. In the SHADE it's 102.

About 10 minutes ago the dog announced her intentions once more and I glanced at that thermometer. At 7:20 pm it was 96 degrees.

I'm not going out there again until November.

Small Print

I use Yahoo mail, the free kind, and that means ads. I usually ignore them but todayI saw an Aerlingus ad. A friend of ours has just bought a house in Ireland and Husband and I are starting a plan to go. So I'm interested in air fares. And, being a cautious type, I read the small print.

The National Airline of Low Fares.

Autumn Aerfares

* Only available through www.aerlingus.com website and is valid on U.S.-originating scheduled Aer Lingus transatlantic economy services between New York, Boston or Chicago and Shannon or Dublin. Los Angeles service to Dublin only. Must be booked by 08/01/05. Fares are applicable from specified gateways for specified dates and do not apply to flights before 09/05/05 or after 10/15/05. Sale fares not available on every flight. Fares are one-way, per person. Subject to availability, changes, cancellations and restrictions. Full payment is made at time of reservation. Taxes/fees/facility charges of up to $25 eastbound and $52 westbound per person not included. Fares do not include the September 11th Security Fee of $2.50 for each enplanement that originates at a U.S. airport. Flight restrictions/terms & conditions apply. Frequent Flyer mileage does not apply. Tickets are non-refundable. Stopovers are not permitted. Seats are limited. Child/infant discounts available. Valid for new bookings only. Tickets cost $15 more one-way when purchased via telephone or at airports. $30 per sector change fee applies for itinerary changes. If any change results in higher fare, passenger must pay the change fee plus the difference in fares. If change results in lower fare, no refund applies. $70 per ticket fee applies for name changes prior to departure. Travel insurance also available for an additional charge. Visit www.aerlingus.com for full details.


What the hell?

No, that's all I can think to say. What the hell?

(If I find greater articulation possible later, I'll update.)

Appreciation

If you haven't already taken my hint and started reading P.I. Files, what's wrong with you already? She's got important information there, like How To Gracefully Deal With Crazy Guys When You Have To Pee.

This is critical, need-to-know stuff, people.

Certain Ruination

I'm in trouble.

Amazon now allows multiple wish lists. You can subdivide your old wish lists into multiple ones on whatever organizational scheme you like and manage them all. It's very easy and pretty nifty, if you've got a cubbyhole brain like mine.

Why is this trouble? The incredible length of my Amazon wish list has been a restraining factor. Previously, it extended to 6 pages -- not that I expect anyone to buy all that stuff for me, but because it was a convenient place to list anything I thought was interesting. But after a point I'd get embarrassed at evidence of my unbridled greed and prune it down by deleting items that, after some passsage of time, no longer appeared so desireable. (The ol' list was a good place to hold things while I thought about them, too.) Now I have neatly divided my lists and none of them extend beyond 1 and 1/2 pages. Plus I no longer have to use the various sortings to see certain things (something which I've never thought worked very well). That I have 5 lists doesn't seem so bad -- the list of lists looks kinda short, really, when you see it on screen.

So now I don't have that feeling of incredible greediness to restrain me with shame. I mean, I can only see the size of one list at a time. As soon as I switch to another list, the old one is forgotten. I am a Creature with but Thought of Stuff.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Curious

One of the things I got when I married was my husband's "art collection" -- paintings his mother no longer had space for that she gave to him when he moved out. Much of it was purchased when she and her husband lived in Japan, during the late 50's/early 60's. Husband is relatively indifferent to most of them, but I have an odd affection for Asian art (odd because I have no context for it -- I didn't grow up with it, I know very little about it, and I haven't seen that much of it, but I get all excited whenever I see some) and so I've rescued much of it from storage.

One piece I am particularly fond of has several rows of calligraphy on the left side, away from the painting itself. There is no card or other information. I'd really like to know what the calligraphy says.

I cannot be sure, but I think the painting is Japanese. It is framed under glass with a wooden backing, and appears to be rice paper or something similar, judging from the grain of the paper. The colors are pale (possibly sun faded) and look like the ink/pigments I've seen used in traditional style painting by Andy Lee. It is equally possible the painting is Chinese or even Korean, as Husband's father was all over West Asia over a long period of years, from just after the late 1940's through the 1960's. I know his family has owned the painting since at least the 1960's but I have no idea how old it is or if it is an original or a print.

If anyone in the greater blogging world knows something about this kind of painting, can read the calligraphy, or knows someone who can, I'd love to know what it says or something about the painting, itself. Please leave a comment to this post.


The Power of Words

The first movie this summer I've really WANTED to see is The Aristrocrats and of course people are upset about it.

Ok, so it's about a dirty joke. Big deal. Big FUCKING deal. (I laugh at myself).

How many members in the studio audience have managed to live lives without ever once laughing at a joke that includes "scatological and sexual references" -- starting with fart jokes when we were 6 years old? A quick scan of Amazon produced 265 results for "dirty joke book". SOMEBODY is telling these things, and SOMEBODY is listening to them.

I'm speculating here, but compared to some of this summer's offerings, I'm thinking watching some comedians improvise on a (fairly lousy) dirty joke is pretty mild stuff.

I love how Penn Jillette describes this movie. "We have a movie that has no nudity, no violence and unspeakable obscenity." I'm thinking that would look good on a t-shirt.

Update: The movie WILL be playing at the Enzian, but the theatre is imposing an adult-only (basically an X rating) on the film. Not that I really want to share the theatre with adolescents who will be strongly tempted to talk back to the screen and make fart noises, but this is our local "avant garde" theatre, and the ONLY place you'll see films of this ilk.

Hey, Sol, wanna see how many folks we can gather to attack the Enzian for the opening?

Never thought

That Earthquakes happen in Montana, but apparently they do. And it has happened before. A Lot.

But no one makes movies about Montana earthquakes, do they? We are all busy waiting for California to drop into the sea.

Monday, July 25, 2005

None of these numbers are real

When someone out there gets a chance, can you explain Blogshares to me? I discovered this weekend that this weblog is listed there (I don't remember doing it, but maybe I did a LONG time ago and forgot about it or something). I mean, I know it's a fantasy stock market. I know it involves pretend money and such. It's like math. It's just that anything I try to do doesn't work, and reading the help is rather like reading the instructions for a new Chinese stove.

I suspect imaginary numbers are involved somehow.

Update: With one question answered and another solved by actual thinking (ouch!), I'm starting to get the hang of Blogshares. Looks kinda fun, once you get around the intimidating counting, adding and subtracting stuff...

A new light on "Men's Warehouse"

From the mouths of babes....at least if you are Dan's baby.

I still haven't finished giggling about this.

Cross pollenation

Finally updated the writing journal. Got what looks like it will be a much longer story going there.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Let's watch some "Family Values" movies

The gig? Eh. People showed, were obnoxious and drunk, and left without paying. Not exactly an "audience".

On the ride home, Miss P, Husband and I discussed, among other things, Disney animated movies and the peculiar pattern we noticed in them -- almost every big Disney animated movie we could think of showed some kind of broken or disfunctional family. Orphans were a big topic, too. Let's look:

1937 - Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
Orphan in the care of an abusive stepparent (stepmother), finds safety and love in an unconventional family (7 male dwarfs)

1940 - Pinocchio
Artificially created child raised by a single male, separated from parent

1941 - Dumbo
Child separated from mother, no apparent father. ChIld witnesses abuse/imprisonment of mother.

1942 - Bambi
Child traumatically loses mother, has distant relationship with father

1950 - Cinderella
Orphan in the care of an abusive stepparent (stepmother)

1955 - Lady and The Tramp
"Child" (Lady) loses her home and is separated from her parents ("Dear" and "Darling"), whenthey have another child. Meets with a romantic male (Tramp) and lives on the road with him. Eventually returns home and establishes a "normal" family again.

1957 - Sleeping Beauty
Child separated from parents, finds safety and love in an unconventional family (3 elderly female fairies)

1961 - One Hundred and One Dalmations
One of the few to depict a "traditional nuclear family" -- mother, father, children. Children traumatically separated from parents, thrown together with other orphaned children.

1967 - The Jungle Book
Orphan raised by unconventional family - a male bear, a male panther

1970 - The Aristocats
Single mother family, family loses home, mother finds a male to whom she is attracted.

1973 - Robin Hood
Depictions of single mother family (Widow Rabbit), infantile male in power (King John), Robin Hood romances Maid Marian.

1988 - Oliver and Company
Orphan (cat) is adopted by an unconventional family(gang of dogs) involved in petty criminal pursuits.

1989 - The Little Mermaid
Single father with many daughters. One daughter separates herself from her family to fulfill a romantic dream.

1991 - Beauty and the Beast
Single (ineffectual) father with personal ambitions distracting him from his daughter's situations must be rescued by her, leading to her separation from him to live with another male.

1992 - Aladdin
Orphan boy meets daughter of an ineffectual and somewhat childlike king. Romance ensues, in the pursuit of which he alienates his devoted friends.

1994 - The Lion King
"Normal" family. Child tramautically loses father, abandons mother, creates a new family with two male characters/friends, returns later to find his mother being abused by another male member of the family.

1995 - Pochanontas
Single father with daughter, father threatens to kill daughter's romantic interest

1997 - Hercules
Adopted child seeks his birth parents only to learn that he cannot be with them until he "proves himself"

1998 - Mulan
"Normal" family risks losing the father until the daughter takes his place and separates from them. Disguised as a man, she proves herself as a soldier and creates another "family" from an assortment of odd (male) characters.

1999 - Tarzan
Human infant survives violent death of parents -- ape parents moarn the death of their infant. Ape mother adopts human child, but ape father remains rejecting and distant. Child finally wins love of ape-father, only to lose that father to death.

OK that's a pretty good list. See what I mean about patterns?

I should note that I've seen all these movies and own many of them. I've loved a number of them since I was a child and seen them dozens of times. They depict many good and positive things, are very funny, entertaining, and even -- occasionally - through provoking. What I find worth noting is the contradictions around them.

I think these movies show us as we want to be -- orphans of the world who triumph in the end. I think this comes in large part from the whole immigrant experience, people who leave their familes behind or lose those familys and must go forth to find their future or make it for themselves. They show that often we will make a family out of whomever comes our way and offers us love, without too much consideration for what is "proper" or "normal".

The stakes are always high in these movies. There is always death -- death in the past (children are orphans or lose one parent), death in the present (child witnesses death of parent or other important "family" member), or future (child is threatened with death, someone important to the child is threatened). Death is, of course, a common and powerful dramatic element. However, these movies are (at least in the last 20 years) intended mostly for children and are now considered all "children's movies". In our modern culture, we usually try to protect children from ideas and depictions of death, or such depictions are met with protests.

Movies reflect to us how we want to see our selves and, sometimes, how we don't want to see ourselves. In a fabric of fantasy and outright fictions, if you look carefully, you can winnow out a little truth. There are a lot of things said about these movies -- they depict the wholesome goodness of childhood, they create false expectations, they hide truth, they exemplify family values. I think that, depending on who is watching them and how they are watched, these movies do all those things. They are (almost) all mythically based, full of archetypes and symbols that tell us about ourselves and the world in which we live. They have conflicts and contradictions, and the power to either sooth us or anger us, again depending on what we see when we look and how that vision aligns with our own ideas.

I think what irritates and puzzles me most is how some people will nitpick and fuss over the smallest, most inconcequential things (like what the dust spells in Lion King) in these movies and never see what is really on screen. We usually accept these "non-traditonal" configurations of family without much thought because in our lives we usually accept whatever configuration of family we can find. The loss of a parent is a universal experience, as are separations and fear and going into the world alone. I think these Disney movies really do illustrate family values -- they just aren't the (in my view) artififical, rigid and unyielding values put forth by those groups of people who yell the term the most loudly.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

More Music

Another gig tonight -- same place as last time, but this time there are SUPPOSED to be customers. We shall see. I had to trade in a party with Sol and some old friends for this. Chances are I won't even get dinner out of it this time, not with the diet -- er, lifestyle change...

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Sounds like....them

I just got this in my email:

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Dear MoveOn member,

The chairman of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Kenneth Tomlinson, is trying to push partisan programming on your local PBS station. Now it's time to push back.

Tomlinson spent our tax dollars on a major new show with the notoriously right-wing editorial board of the Wall Street Journal. Under the guise of "balance," Tomlinson is giving yet another soapbox to powerful allies of the White House and short-changing investigative journalism on PBS.

Please call your local PBS station today. You can say something like:

"I'm a big supporter of PBS and this station. Please keep Kenneth Tomlinson's partisan spin off the air. I don't want to see those pro-Bush pundits from the Wall Street Journal—I want real journalism."

The Wall Street Journal editorial page regularly distorts the truth to dogmatically defend the Bush administration. Here are a few examples:

  • Parroted Republican talking points to defend Karl Rove's role in the CIA leak1
  • Claimed Bush's Social Security privatization plan would not cut benefits2
  • Exaggerated the number of Iraqi troops trained3
  • Disputed science linking global warming to greenhouse gases4
  • Insisted the world is not running out of oil5
  • Falsely claimed Abu Ghraib report absolved senior officials of responsibility for abuse6
  • Credited Bush as the first to regulate mercury when he rolled back more stringent protections already on the books7

The Wall Street Journal editorial board is dishonest, and sadly it's also among the most influential political voices in the country. It hardly fulfills the public broadcasting mission of providing "a voice for groups in the community that may otherwise be unheard."8 You can find out whether "The Journal Editorial Report" airs on your PBS station at:

http://www.pbs.org/wnet/journaleditorialreport/schedule.html

You helped hold back Republicans' attempts to slash funding for public broadcasting,9 but the right-wing is still trying to control what we see and hear on NPR and PBS. Public broadcasting must reflect the interests of the American public, not Kenneth Tomlinson or any partisan hack.

Thank you for all you do.

–Noah, Wes, Micayla, Carrie and the MoveOn.org Civic Action Team
Thursday, July 21st, 2005

P.S. Tomlinson's term as chairman comes to an end this fall, but the leading replacements are major Republican donors and right-wing activists. We'll be watching this closely, and you can learn more from this Washington Post story:

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Now, I understand the emotions and thinking here, but it still bothers me. Why? Because it is censorship. When one group tries to close off speech from another group because they don't like that speech, that's censorship.

OK, let me qualify a little here. I'm hardly a conservative thinker. The "right wing" doesn't invite me to their cocktail parties. I believe in personal responsibility, personal decision making, and government staying out of people's lives as much as possible. I'm willing to accept the risks associated with living in a free country and I think information should be as available and free as possible. This bothers me because it sounds SO MUCH like what the "other" side says. This sort of action is the kind of thing liberals would loudly protest if it were done to them. So why is it ok for MoveOn to do it and to ask me to participate?

I enjoy Public Broadcasting very much. It is my prime source for news and information. I support it monetarily. I like it in particular because I (fairly often) hear views on it that are opposite to my own, yet are not presented in such a way that I can't think about them critically. I find their presentation reasonably nonjudgemental, and, since I AM able to think for myself, I can discriminate and chose what I will and won't accept. I'm of the opinion that "fair and reasonable" has come to mean "fair to MY side and reasonable to MY sensibilities" in the great news world. I prefer to have my intellect approached rather than my lizard brain.

The show in question may certainly be just chock full of authoritative lies spoken by authoritative people in authotitative suits. It comes with the label "right wing" on it, for pete's sake, from the person who is putting it forth.

So, I'm replying with this:

In "keeping partisan spin off PBS", are we not creating a partisan spin in another direction? Why is censorship of opinions we don't like -- and I am not fond of most conservative opinions -- a "good" thing? Why is it acceptable?

Why not, instead, pair the show up with a "left wing" show or even a more neutral show to shine a different light on the arguements? Are PBS audiences so stupid that we cannot critically think about this information and determine whether or not it is worthwhile? Are there no sources on PBS to present counter-arguements? What, exactly, are we afraid of here?

Censorship is wrong. If it is wrong for them, it is wrong for us. I cannot support this particular campaign on that basis.

I don't expect an answer. I don't expect to make much impact at all. My influence is not that great. However, my ability to think for myself is, no matter what anyone else might like to say. I suspect that, given a chance (or forced into a corner) there are others who can think for themselves just as well.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Scotty just beamed up

CNN.com - James Doohan, 'Star Trek's' Scotty, dead� - Jul 20, 2005

Ok, that's three. I never got to see Mr. Doohan at a convention, although I attended a few where he was a guest, but I heard a lot of great stories about him. I will remain at heart a Trekkie for life, I suppose. I'm now bummed.

Somebody's Watching Me

I am watching a rather interesting program on Electronic Surveilance.

While I won't say the show has all the information or all the questions (it's an hour long TV show) there were some interesting points brought up by various people interviewed on both sides of the issue that coincide with my own thoughts. I've come to believe that "freedom" and "security" are not compatible states. Being free -- politically, physically, spiritually, etc -- implies that one is able to do WHATEVER one wishes, including placing one's self in all kinds of danger either intentionally or as a consequence of other actions. To be secure is to be safeguarded, usually by the agency of some other entity, from most or all dangers, by whatever means that agency deems appropriate to provide that security.

Usually security is obtained in exchange for freedom. A certain amount of freedom is given in exchange for a certain amount of security, usually. That's the basic idea behind laws, really.

Unfortunately, I don't know that the average US citizen has worked that idea through, that freedom is inherently risky. Someone in the show said (paraphrase) "You could probably catch most terrorists in a police state."

In the US we think we have rights to privacy. In the 19th century, we actually did -- a citizen was allowed to do most anything he or she liked with exceptions made for property and infringement on the lives of others (usually property owners) via laws. There were various "moral codes" in place in some communities, but if you didn't like them, you could move elsewhere and make your own rules. However, you were also responsible to secure yourself. You had to make your own decisions about what was safe, what was acceptible risk, and what was dangerous. No one was around to protect you.

Money likes security. As money became more and more important in the US, security became more important. We began trading in the "rights of the individual" for the security of the group. Now, ye old Average Joe is surprised to learn that his "right to privacy" isn't really a right, that there are all sorts of legal infringements on it, and his freedom to do what ever he likes within his private domain is subject to the permission of the agency providing security for all. If that agency decides, on whatever information, that Average Joe is potentially a danger -- pphhhpt! -- no privacy.

The surveilance show talked a lot about monitoring the details of people's computer habits -- the content and recipients of email, websites visited, information entered on surveys, etc -- combined with data mining public records to detect "patterns of behaviors" that could indicate terrorism. I suspect this idea arises from all the 20/20 hindsight about clues various terrorist bombers have left behind. "If only someone had looked at this stuff!" goes the moan, "They could have caught him and prevented all this mayhem and death!"

I argue with this on two fronts -- first, going backwards from an event and creating causality from preceeding actions is false logic, because without the final event, the previous events do not necessarily link. A particular series of actions COULD lead to a bombing, yes. They could also lead to a research paper and a gardening project, or any number of other, less lethal conclusions. Second, taking a series of factors as predictive of a potential negative outcome is akin to many other forms of divination -- there's a lot of room for interpretation. Abdul Schmoe is Muslim, he buys an airplane ticket with cash, he has a beard, he's been to Pakistan/Saudi Arabia/Libya/Some other place we hold in suspicion -- is he a terrorist, or a guy who doesn't like credit cards and faithfully visits his family overseas whenever he can? If one of his relatives is a suspected or proven terrorist, and he saw that cousin at a wedding celebration, does that mean he's a terrorist? Under that logic, we should really be watching all the relatives and friends of every convicted murderer and drug dealer we have in prison.

No, I'm not particularly keen on the idea of having someone walk into Disney World with a backpack bomb and blow Mickey and 300 little kids away. Yes, I'd like to make this a world in which people don't blow up other people with bombs or guns or napalm. In fact, there are a lot of things humans do to other humans that I'd like to see stop right now, today. The point I'm making is that we should not give away our freedom in exchange for security without really considering what our lives will be like after we make the bargain.

Update: Rien sent me this...I suppose there are now even more reasons to have an unknown weblog...

As a Public Service

I like to be prepared for bad things. Despite my normally sunny outlook and Pollyanna-like optimism, I still understand that rotten stuff occasionally lands on people. With that in mind, and with my recent troll-post still in my head, I went looking for something I wrote a couple of years ago, updated it, and present it here for your enjoyment. Feel free to copy and modify it to suit your own anti-troll needs. There's also a link on the right if you need it later.

Dear Concerned Weblog Reader,

Thank you for taking the time from your busy and satisfying life to hunt my site out from the literally hundreds of thousands of other sites just to correct the error of my ways with your enlightened commentary. Obviously, I will give deep consideration to the philosophical implications of "You Suck" and "Fuck Off, Bitch". Your succinct manner of expression gave me an impression of your wit and intelligence that will remain with me.

In fact, I feel deeply honored that my influence upon you is so great, so profound, that when I strayed into error, you were prompted to such an immediate and heartfelt reaction. It would have been so easy to simply ignore me and move on, never to return, removing the flickering light of your intellect to some other, more deserving weblogger, gracing them with your unwashed presence and giving them the gift of your regard and attention. That you expended the energy to hunt and peck your painstaking way through the alphabet to share of your wisdom tells me just how important you consider me to be. Who could not be complimented? You've paused in your schedule to think about me rather than concentrating precious effort toward your work on the unified field theory, your anti-AIDS vaccine, and your cure for several different cancers. That doesn't even mention the loss of your time spent in activism to eradicate poverty in Africa, bring concordance to the Middle East, and solve the hotdog/bun conundrum. What an incredible strain it must have been to think about my very minor role in your world. You've given to me effort and energy that you would usually devote to saving abused children, rescuing earthquake victims and promoting world peace.

I can do no more than thank you.

Sherri


Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Cautionary Tale

When I see a twenty-something man with a greasy soupbowl haircut driving a rust-red beater pickup with a driver-side gas tank stuffed with a blue-tick dishtowl flicking his cigarette ash out of his window, I know I'm watching the Great American Redneck in action.

I also either slow down or speed up so I'm not there for the explosion. That much drama I'd rather watch on TV.

Joblogs

Polly the P.I. is another of those unexpected weblogs about someone's job, but not a job that just any ol' somebody has. Rather like Clublife or Opinionistas, Polly the P.I. is funny and honest about relating the events of her working day.

There's a difference, though. She doesn't seem to hate her job, or look upon only the negative aspects of it. This may affect her success as a weblogger -- not that people who write successful job-logs are bitter, angry people, but that using the negative aspects for humor seems to be a trait. I think it's just a sort of exaggeration, like any good humor writing will exaggerate. Ye Olde Average Readre likes to think that his hatred/dislike/disinterest in his job shared universally. It's traditionally funny to have a rotten job and make fun of it. Usually it IS funny.

I wonder if joblogs will become a more common thing, given the personal disasters that occur when employers discover these blogs.

Of Blogging and Unemployment
Shitcanned
Dooce got fired
Can you get fired for having a blog?
Do work and blogging mix? (1)
Do work & blogging mix? (2)
The Blogger's Right Blog

On both Opinionistas and PeskyApostrophe, I've read in the comments well meaning people giving dire warnings about horrible outcomes from blogging (negatively) about one's job.

There's a line here, I'm noticing. The first thing is people getting fired because they write/surf/check on their weblogs from work, using time and equipment paid for by the employer. That comes under "goofing around on the job" and, yeah, can get you fired. The second thing is an employer firing you because of what you wrote in your weblog, even if written on your own time with your own computer and paid for/provided for by you. That's a different matter, much more murky.

Blogger: How not to get fired because of your blog

Is it really that prevalent?

I got DOOCED!

Wow -- type that in a search engine and see what comes up? I wonder how it feels to have one's web existance turned into a verb?

I'm lucky. I'm only employed part time, my job is tedious and unremarkable enough that I rarely write about it, and my boss is so deliberately computer-illiterate that he isn't likely to find this (our sales manager/Son-in-law of Bosszilla is another story, but I don't think he looks at more than sports and porn on his computer).

Update: I really can't manage an original thought. I wrote about this very topic way back here.

Don't Think About It

I've spent today painting the master bathroom. It's not nearly done but so far, so good. This living without sugar is leaving me seriously sapped of energy. I should have been done already. However, when it is done, my bathroom will look very sophisticated. Well, it will have sophisticated potential. Some things will just require a remodel.

I'm watching my Jonny Quest DVD this evening. I enjoy things like Jonny Quest and Godzilla, as long as I don't think about them too much. Face it, if you really THINK about a Jonny Quest episode, you're going to wonder: just who brings along a bazooka on an exploratory expedition for rare minerals? And where did it fit in the boat? It's almost as if they KNEW they would be facing a prehistoric flying creature. And how is it that when the bad guy dies -- and, except for Dr. Zin, they all do -- it's always the bad guy's own fault and there's nothing any of the Quest party can do about it? Very suspicious. Better not to think about it.

Other things it's really better not to think about are some of the blogs I find. I know, I should lay off that magic "Next Blog" button, but it's a compulsion. So, I come across photos of a guy wearing women's (sheer) underpants and hose -- mostly (unflattering) ass and crotch photos. Or a wanna-be sumo wrestler who's really too small and too white and looking as if he just one day woke up dressed like this. And, of course, endless numbers of pure inexplicableness -- teeny tiny fonts and posts that start "My Weekend was So Much Fun!!!!!!!!!". If it weren't for the occasional glimmer of gold I find in all this dross, I'd have given up.

Where do I get off speaking with such a superior smirk on my face? I suppose it can be said I'm adding nothing to the general accumulation of quality weblogging. True enough. This is my little Mt. Olympus, though, and here I rein like the little aluminum goddess I always wanted to be. No one else thinks much about it, so why should I?

And there are still wax lips. Don't think about them too much, either.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Time Loop

It's a very odd feeling to go to a party at a friend's house, wander around, and have some guy whose name you didn't catch and who's face you didn't see pause, look up at you, and announce that he was your 7th grade science teacher.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

The Price of Popularity

I find the whole weblogging thing very interesting (in case you had not noticed). Like life, everyone has to go through their particular experience on their own, even if others have also gone through similar experiences. I think this is particularly true of popular/successful weblogs.

What brought up this rumination? Clublife, one of my favorite weblogs and one I think deserves reading and probably a book contract, has removed comments. There are two ideas underlined by this particular action -- the unique pains and troubles of being popular in the bloggosphere, and the purpose and problems of comments. I'm feeling just pendantic enough this morning to do some half-assed philosophizing about both.

One thing that seems automatic for blog-popularity is trolls. Trolls are those people -- and we all know who they are -- who, because of immaturity, insecurity, unmanaged anger or lack of dietary fiber feel that anyone who's getting a lot of positive atttention must be attacked. At best, they are an annoyance that can be lampooned. At worst, they are a painful affliction equivalent to a severe flea infestation. Trolls are occasionally well meaning people who get so excited about something that they don't read a complete post before jumping all over the particular point upon which they must, must, MUST correct the writer. Trolls use weblog comments for personal aggrandizement, althought the owner of the blog may feel like their comments have become a troll-toilet.

Trolls are usually attracted to blogs that get a lot of attention, although they occasionally stomp through blogs with less lime-light. I suspect popular weblogs look good to trolls for a number of reasons:
  1. If a lot of people are reading the blog, they are potentially reading the comments, and therefore more eyes will pass over the troll's droppings.
  2. The person writing the weblog is obviously important, and the troll can attract that person's attention.
  3. If the troll can upset the weblogger, that's Troll Power in action. The troll can pretend he/she is bigger/smarter/faster/stronger/prettier than the popular weblogger.
  4. If other commentors jump to the weblogger's defense, the troll is not only getting attention from them, but has more people to belittle and insult.
  5. The troll can be outrageous, obnoxious, rude, crude, and pseudo-intellectual with very few consequences.
The worst thing about trolls is the only solution is to ignore them, and it's very damned hard to convince random people coming to your comments to do so. Most people react to the troll by playing whack-a-troll, and all that does is give the troll more attention, which is what they want in the first place. It's hard work for most people to ignore a troll. It becomes a competition for each individual commentor to prove how he/she is bigger/smarter/faster/stronger/prettier than the troll, thus putting the troll in his place and rising as the hero of the situation. However, the troll never accepts defeat. Attention is to the troll what sugar water is to bees -- until the supply dries up, they will still buzz around.

And this ain't easy, my friend. No, it's really hard to completely ignore a troll. It's hard to get everyone else to ignore a troll. And all the positive comments you get will not overpower the stench of those troll droppings.

It is possible, and perhaps even likely, that all of us will be a troll at some point. I know I once had something of a trollish existance, at least for one or two weblogs that shall remain nameless. I find myself occasionally tempted into trollhood today, although now (with my new and improved Anti-Troll mental software) I will delete such comments before I'm through typing them.

What's my method? When I want to make an angry comment to someone, I just don't. I don't. I apply that old rule of "How do I feel when someone does this to me -- no, not bullshit, honestly, how do I feel?" I also work hard to never post when angry. I don't want to feel myself turning into a troll. I don't want to shit on other people, even if only virtually in their comments. I'm not going to change anything, improve anything, or make anything suit me by doing it. And it's the Freaking World Wide Web. If I don't like what I read, I can GO ELSEWHERE. I don't comment often just for that reason.

With such risks as trolls, who can get under the skin of the toughest weblogger, why have comments in the first place? This is a serious point to consider when you set up a weblog. I use a comment system that allows me to delete comments. This way, should I get a troll, I can delete the comment. Thus, it no longer bothers me, and no one else will see it to react to it. For a while a troll will try to post more than you can delete. You can always win this one, but you have to put as much effort into it as the troll does, which can be annoying.

If I delete someone's comments because I don't like them, aren't I cutting off that person's ability to express themselves, thus engaging in the censorship I perport to despise and abhore? Damn skippy. Weblogs are a funky sort of public forum. The person who runs the weblog sets the rules. If the rules include "Don't abuse the author or other visitors" -- which, in general, is rule for most public areas -- then I have no problem removing the offender or the offense. I have no reason to tolerate abuse, or to tolerate the abuse of others. Once again, there are literally THOUSANDS of places where a troll can shit. If I refuse to convert my comments to a troll-toilet, I'm not exactly causing a hardship for that troll.

And here's a fine point -- a negative comment is not always a troll dropping. Someone who develops and posts a considered, calm, logical counter-argument, even if I don't like it, is not a troll. Trolls will attack, not counter. They will call everyone else insulting names. They will offer up nothing but their own, unsubstantiated opinion but will act as if their opinions are undesputable fact. It's a rare troll who can be clever, although often they perceive themselves as equal to Dorothy Parker in their snarky wit. The rest of us will think they are more like Tommy Parker, the sandbox bully from first grade.

So, I've got a lot of sympathy for The Doorman at Clublife. He's just doing what he wants to do, and he's doing it well enough to attract a lot of attention. Unfortunately, not all the attention he's getting is positive, and he's attracted trolls. I'm kind of sorry he's taken down his comments because there were occasionally interesting conversations going on down there, and because he's cut himself off from some of the good stuff that results from comments -- conversations, finding other sites, contacting helpful folk. I noted only that he responded to the negative comments (not surprising, really. He self-describes himself as someone who will notice the negative more readily than the positive. He is, by the nature he puts on screen, someone who will not notice the strokes, but will react to defend himself from any percieved attack. He's a bouncer and a jock. D'uh. He's honest about it.) I also think he knows the secret to trolls. He's just tired of cleaning the toilet as the price for his success.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Fly! Be Free!

I hang around too many lesbians, I guess, or I've reached my "I don't Give a Fuck" period early, but I have eschewed bras where ever possible. I'm not overly endowed, and neither am I padding reliant. They are there, my pair, resisting gravity with all their might. Their specific condition is the concern only of my husband, my doctor, and myself. (The cats only want them for walking on.)

I'm one of those ever so lucky women who cannot, even with expert help, find a well fitting bra that won't eventually turn around and bite me. It's a fact. (Elastic * time) + my skin = irritation. I hate 'em (but less than I hate panty hose). I look with disdain upon the conventions and expectations of others concerning how I should appear. I understand the "hidden code" of clothing, so I maintain "standards of decency" -- if I'm in public, I'm covered with non-transparent fabric from above my sternum to just above my knees and all the way around (aka at least a tank-top and shorts) and, given my copious collection of knee length t-shirts, usually more. That someone else feels I am aesthetically unappealing without extra layers of restraint beneath my usual camoflauge is just so sad and unfortunate for them. It's not like I'm flashing anything.

Now, let me make myself clear. At work, at social events, and in general, once I leave the house, I'm wearing a bra and undies beneath my clothing. I seek to dress appropriately for the situation whenever I can. However, if the highlight of my day is a 30 minute trip to Walmart, I'm just not gonna do it. First of all, being in Walmart is discomfort enough. Second, anyone who gives a tinker's damn is definately someone I want to annoy. If you've got enough time to stare at my chest with your x-ray vision to determine if I am or am not wearing a bra under my t-shirt, you deserve whatever you get.

I understand the horror with which many people regard the bra-less female. My mother was raised in the 40's and 50's and wore those torpedo bras until she died. I grasp that many people cannot divorce sexuality from the nude human form. I've also spent a good deal of time among pagans in large groups where "sky-clad" was the norm, and I've learned that simply averting my eyes saves me much torment. It also helps to remind myself that everyone must live in the body they have, and my judgement of that body isn't really useful. If I don't like it, I don't freaking look. It's that simple.

I've come to the conclusion at this point in my life that 1) people are going to judge me on some set of factors or another, none of which I can control 2) out of any given group, SOMEONE will find something about me they don't like 3) The best I can do is be comfortable with myself. I also have come to accept that what people find wrong with other people says more about what they dislike/deny/are unhappy or insecure about themselves. Since all our judgements come through the filters of our own experiences, memories, fears and concerns, they reflect the same.

So, for the duration, I chant this mantra to all the women who read what I scribble in this tiny corner of the 'net -- Let Them Puppies Breathe!

Addendum:
I'd like to add that I'm not anti-bra for everyone. I'm definately not in the "dress to offend" camp, since I do think that one should appear appropriately covered as the situation dictates. I'm anti-someone telling me I'm (insert negative or insulting comment here) when I chose not to wear one, or issuing a condemnation against all those people who do not do as they do (or at least think others should do). I do stand by the idea that if no one can see it, whether you wear it or not is a personal choice.

One day I'll have to write about the mysterious rite of the slip.

Important Reference Material

In easy to read handbook form

The Action Hero's Handbook: How to Catch a Great White Shark, Perform the Vulcan Nerve Pinch, Track a Fugitive, and Dozens of Other TV and Movie Skills

The Action Heroine's Handbook

How to Rule the World : A Handbook for the Aspiring Dictator

Villain's Guide to Better Living

How to Be a Villain: Evil Laughs, Secret Lairs, Master Plans, and More!!!

How to Be a Superhero: Your Complete Guide to Finding a Secret Headquarters, Hiring a Sidekick, Thwarting the Forces of Evil, and Much More!!


The Metrosexual Guide to Style: A Handbook for the Modern Man


The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook

The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook: Dating and Sex

The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook: Holidays

Poor Blogger's Zen

Another night of Not Sleeping led to even more pressing of the Magic Next Blog button. This, of course, led to new discoveries and observations. Yay, another excuse to use bullets. (It seems all I can write about these days is blogging. Tells you my state, doesn't it?)

  • Ok, who the hell is Jan Tincher and why does she have so many weblogs? This woman does everything! She looks like a 5th grade teacher in her turtleneck and hot-roller hair.
  • No matter how many times I hit that button, the same sites will cycle back through.
  • No matter how jaded you are, three pictures of a woman sucking a horse penis will make you stare, and then convulsively stab the "Next Blog" button while you try to bleach your memory. The damn thing should have had a warning lable. YECH!
  • Someone has a sense of humor when they title a site of nekkid girl pictures "Humbert Humbert". although I don't think he's read "Lolita". Not as porny as it could have been but when it cycles through 3 times, it's a sign. (Just for you, Brenden).
  • What's with the java app that pops up a little dialog box on the screen with random nonsense that you must click through to escape? It's cruel.
  • There's a particular template that has a huge area for graphics and a tiny window for the posts, usually pressed far to the left. On my high rez screen, the text area is less than 1/4 the total template and the text is tiny. These tend to be black on black on red, or fluffy-bunny pink. When I could decipher words, it was a teenager writing. I am old.
  • Sometimes those sites have a tagboard which is about half the size of the post window and filled with slightly larger but garisly colored text. I am still old.
  • I keep hitting a spam site titled "My Money Woes" but I keep translating it as "My Monkey Woes". I am dissapointed there are no Bad Monkey pictures.
  • What's not to like about baby goats?

In the non-net world, I heard some guy on TV talking about how riding a particular motorcycle was "A poor man's Zen".


Ok, for those three of you who don't get the extreme irony of that remark, a Zen experience is pretty much found through meditation or wandering in nature or sitting in a garden staring at a pool or water or maybe raking sand into patterns around a rock. Usually you need no money at all for it. While you can have a Zen experience any ol' place you manage it, riding a moterbike that costs upwards or above $2000 doesn't qualify as "Zen for the poor man."

Once you explain something like that, all the humor falls out through the trapdoor in the bottom. However, I still find the remark lip-twistingly, eye-rollingly, deep-sighingly ironic. Or maybe it's just oxymoronic. Or stupid.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

A pause

I learned last night a friend of mine I knew only on the internet has committed suicide. He was a very troubled person, and had survived truly horrific circumstances. He was battling demons all the time. I was planning to travel to meet him but now there is no need.

This is the second person I've known on the 'net who has killed himself. The first was Skattie, of Freudiam Slop, who I actually met and spent a day with just months before he died.

I have to write this out, although my worldlier sense says this isn't really anything made better by posting on the weblog. Still, I have to answer some of the things Alex said to me, things I know he was thinking before he did it.

No, Alex, we are not better off without you. Those closest to you will carry you with them always, along with pain and guilt that they could not save you. Even I, so far away and so periphrial to your life, could not sleep knowing you are gone, and carry a sense of loss with me and a sense of failure that I could not give you anything with which to withstand the demons within, the ones we talked about. We will not get over it. We will not forget. Gradually, yes, the sharpness will dull and the pain will recede, but it will be a long time and will never be complete.

I know you didn't understand that and could not see yourself as so important. Through the fog of your own agonies, you really couldn't see all those around you trying to help, trying to stand between you and those tempting, horrifying demons. You were special simply because you existed as you. Your individual light shown amongst all the other lights, with us and amongst us, although you felt yourself shrouded in darkness. You were unique and special, just like each and every one of us is. You were different yet no different. You were unseen by me, untouched by me, and yet a part of me. A part that is now gone.

The world was better when you were still in it. I find the only comfort I can in knowing you are still in the universe in some form, moving and flowing and unending. I hope, I pray, that your pain, now scattered among all of those whose hearts you touched, is less and your soul will move on with lighter burdens to your next set of lessons. I am angry with the choice you made, and angry with myself for not doing more, but that does not erase the warmth I feel for you. I won't forget you. You have died, but you have not gone.

Please, no one send me condolences or expressions of sorrow about this. My role in Alex's life was minor at best, just typing on a screen. I know that many a wounded heart and psyche roams the 'net. Those words are for Alex, and for any soul that might gain some wisdom from them, if I have any to offer.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

My Average Day.

Ok, so I've been wandering randomly through Blogger's massive collection of weblogs with the Magic Next Blog Button. At long last, I came back to my own site via the Button. That made me laugh, so of course I had to stop and write about it.

I've mentally compared my shit with everyone else's shit because that's what I do. I am not nearly as interesting as a lot of people, but that's not my writing. That's my life. I mean, my life simply isn't that interesting as a source of blogfodder (I may hate the word "blog" but somehow the word "blogfodder entertains me.) The most interesting thing I do is here, pretty much. I mean, my average day consists of :

  • possibly going into the office where I will do a mindnumbing task in a room by myself, talking to no one, seeing no one,
  • unless my boss is in, in which case there is a 50/50 chance I will be translating some rant of his into a memo in English, trying to both make him sound as intelligent and wise as he imagined himself to be and yet not cause instant laughter when the memo hits the Sales department, or;
  • since my office is the conference room, either have to sit and try to work while someone else is listening to a sales pitch or discussing something in which I have no interest or involvement, or be asked to leave so that I wander aimlessly around the plant with no where to go in particular.
  • Then I come home.

(If I don't go in, my morning is just like my afternoon, only warmer.)

In the afternoon, I :
  • check the round of weblogs and comics I read,
  • glance over the news headlines, and
  • try to pick something to do.

If I'm successful, house gets cleaned, laundry gets done, and I am a domestic goddess.
If I am not -- and I am usually not -- I may:
  • play a little CoH,
  • wander around the web some more,
  • then wander some more,
  • take the dog out,
  • start something rather like housework,
  • get distracted,
  • forget where I was going and stand in the living room staring at whatever random cat is staring back at me
Ok, that pretty much sums up the life I don't write about. I don't see much of anyone or talk to much of anyone who is not my husband or is not on the 'Net. I rarely make phone calls or go visit anyone, mostly because there is no one to call or to visit in my life. I talk to Miss P during guitar lessons and when we meet up on chorus rehearsal nights, and occasionally spend time staring at a movie together, but that's sort of the edge of my social life.

Anyway, what I was talking about were all these other blogs I've been looking at. The "Experiments" list has grown. I've learned what everyone else already knows, it seems.

Most Blogs Don't Interest Me.

Shocking news, I know. I am completely uninterested in someone's extremist political view, any religious view at all, anything where the words "you are" appear as "u r", any sentence containing "kewl", or anything that has sentences that do not start with a capitol letter. I pass by any blog that plays music at me. I skip through family pictures, "I traveled here" sites, "keeping up with the family" sites, and "Oh I love XXXXX so much" sites.

I'm such a snob. I admit it.

I ran across innumerable sites in languages I could not read and did not translate. I saw an incredible number of sites with a random letter combination for a title and what looked like spam in each entry. I also saw sites that were nothing but collections of links on particular topics with no commentary or other sign of human interaction. I rushed passed a number of sites on which a bikini-clad woman's buttocks pulsated, gif-like, at me from a sidebar.

So what did end up in the blogroll? Mostly interesting writing, or a sense of humor similar to my own. Sometimes I was caught up by a view of life in another country. Sometimes it was a way of life alien but not unfamiliar to me (Check out Willawoman as an example). Each weblog I added was, at least at the time I read it, both familiar enough without being too familiar, and different enough without being far too different. I don't think these people are "just like me". I don't think I'd be friends with several of them, just for lack of conversational topics in common. (Hell, that's true for my regular blogroll). Still, something rang out. Who knows if it is strong enough to sustain a long term reading relationship? That's why they are experiments, sort of like high-speed dating without the expense and the awkward expectations of sex.

And certainly more interesting than my average day.

And it's only Wednesday

I'm having a mediocre week, culminating in a bored Wednesday night. Thus, a post is born.

We have one of those "butterfly" chairs in the bedroom -- metal frame with a big puffy cover fitted over it. I moved it recently so that it ceased to be the trash-catch spot and I could use it. Now I'm stuck in it. I love me some puffy cushion comfort, ya know.

Unfortunately, this means I don't like my office so much, so I'm not getting any "real" writing done. I'm not reading anything. I've made one piece of jewelry. I haven't studied. I haven't practiced my guitar. My life is a long list of "I'm nots".

To balance that out are the 4 things I am doing. I am hitting the "Next Blog" button. I am running my virtual spandex-covered ass around City of Heroes zapping things. I am avoiding all sugar in foods, including starches. I'm running intermittent low-grade fevers, usually at night and in the afternoon.

I feel rather useless, pointless, directionless -- lots of "less" in my feelings recently. I can think of things to do, but the actual doing of them gets forgotten pretty quickly. Hell, I've watched the same three old movies repeatedly this week. That's sad, ya know? That's really sad. At least they are good movies (Forbidden Planet, The Women, and Holiday).

Anyway, I'm also whiney, because this sounds like whining. It sort of feels like the usual cloud of my friend The Depression, only no "paper bag" darkness on me. I suspect the change in my bloodsugar, a factor to which I've always been sensitive (I'm not diabetic, but I'm constantly warned that I COULD be, any second now. My blood sugar is the envy of every diabetic I know. The only problem is I can drop from a nice 120 to a nice 80 in about 20 minutes.) However, I am tired of hauling all of me there is around, so I'm trying to unload some of me. Episodes in the bathroom have been...traumatic. I shan't describe because I get the willies.
AH, the glories of the South Beach Diet.

I'm going to go eat some more lentils now.

Because Sometimes You Just Gotta Laugh

The Latest in Pro-censorship Neursis examined over at my favorite punctuation mark, Pesky Apostrophe.

All those years of protesting Apostrophe Abuse made a difference, I guess.

Good Reading

I've a long-time love for "the other side of the story" stories -- famous tales told from the "bad guy" perspective, the antagonist explaining their POV. John Gardner's "Grendel" is a favorite.

Pete, aka Doghouse Reilly, is doing the bit. Check out part 1, part 2 and part 3.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

He Couldn't Mean Us, Could He?

From the Writer's Almanac:


It's the birthday of Julius Caesar, born in Rome around 100 B.C., who said, "Beware the leader who bangs the drum of war in order to whip the citizenry into a patriotic fervor. For patriotism is indeed a double-edged sword. It both emboldens the blood, just as it narrows the mind."

Monday, July 11, 2005

Reasons to Stay Away from the Metroplex

Oh help. I just saw a trailer for the upcoming "Dukes of Hazzard" movie. (I refuse to link it)

I watched the show when I was a kid. I lived in the heart of Redneck Land growing up, so I was familiar with the language, the clothing, te attitudes and the cars (although no one in Ocoee, Florida had a car like that. It might be different elsewhere.)

I saw a 30 second clip. I cringed. I winced. I tried to remember what it was I liked about the original show, which was, as I recall, mostly John Schneider who was all hunky in my 14 year old eyes. I wasn't passionate about the show. I didn't discuss the episodes with friends. I don't even remember the episodes. I have, at best, a vague recollection of the show and a general impression of country music, Denver Pyle's beard, and getting in trouble for trying to wear "Daisy Duke" short shorts. It seems the movies have done all they can with the 1970's, now the 80's are in the viewscope. No. No no no no.

This is not nostalgia. This is embarrassing.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

It's not the size of the ship...

Why are these guys smiling? What exactly IS up their butts?

Ok, I've been watching these incredibly ooky Enzyte ads for months now, and I just don't get it. I mean, they've got this guy, Smiling Bob, who just sets my teeth on edge and makes me want to wash with anti-bacterial soap. He's taking these "male enhancement" pills and now he's got "a big boost of confidence, a little well earned respect, and a very happy partner back at the clubhouse."

Obviously, men have a very intimate (har-har) and special relationship with Mr. Johnson. I know a lot of ego is attached to size, shape, color, ability and general working order of the schlong, so I grasp the confidence thing. As for the "happy partner" thing, well, it is a long standing myth that the penis is the source of all pleasure, right? (ok, so maybe for some it IS, but we are talking generalizations here) So, I get that.

But RESPECT? "Well Earned Respect". That's what the ad-man says. How does phallus = respect? What are they selling here? And what did Smiling Bob do to earn this respect so well? What goes on in the locker room, guys? Dueling? Did he run someone through with his mighty sword? Outpee Contestant number 2? Win the Willy Wars? How does one earn respect with "male enhancement" pills?

Look, I know some of you out there have penises. I'm a penis fan, trust me on this, have been since I discovered them, but...respect? I cannot say I've ever respected a penis. I've been FOND of a penis or two in my life. I've liked, even adored a couple. I've been on friendly terms with some. But weiner respect -- that I've never had. I've respected a few penis OWNERS, but not because of the penis itself. In fact, usually a penis is the last factor in getting any respect from me. What's the deal here? Can someone explain this? Or, as I suspect, is it just some very weird marketing technique designed to get guys where they aren't thinking? Is there some guy wandering around out there with his fly open and his boxers gapping, thinking "Hey, slinging THIS in everyone's face will earn me some respect, damn skippy!"?

Maye Jeff Foxworthy is right...it's hard to row to England in a dingy.

Read Subversively

I'm reading a book on Banned Books, which means I was compelled to make a list of books that have been Most Banned to see how many I've read. The banning of books, like the limiting of anyone's right to speak, has never appeared to me compatible with the ideals upon which the US was founded, nor particularly compatible with the ideals of any society or culture which proclaims to want freedom for its members. With freedom comes responsibility and boundaries -- responsibility for one's self and members of one's family not yet able to make decisions for themselves (children) and boundaries to not infringe upon others' ability to make their own choices for themselves and their children. Yet it is distressingly common for one person or small group of people to take upon themselves the responsibility for deciding "for the community" what should and should not be available in a library paid for by EVERYONE's tax dollar.

Anyway, how many banned books have you read?

Friday, July 08, 2005

Serious (ok, I mean it this time)

I repeat myself a lot here, mostly because I like to, occasionally because I suspect none of you were paying attention, and sometimes because I just can't remember shit.

This is not one of those times. This is serious.

I know FOR A FACT that several of you consider yourselves writers at wanna-be-writers. And I know that if there's one thing a writer needs, it's a reader. Preferably an informed, articulate, critical-not-bitchy reader. Other writers are really good this way, especially when you've exchanged manuscripts and you hold their precious baby in your hot little hands at the same time they have your wonderfulness in theirs.

So that's what I'm talking about. I'm a good reader/reviewer/editor. I'm trying like hell to be a good writer (shut up, you in the back row). I've come to the conclusion that, since writing is all about talking to other people, the only way to road test a story before I send it off to gather another rejection notice is to have someone read it and make comments. I've been working on finding such people for the last 5 years. I've run into a few, a couple who were very good, but then this thing called "having a life" got in the way. Also, they were reading niche-targetted fiction for me. Anyway, they are either all busy or gone or whatever. I've also run into a huge number of well intentioned and talented people who simply haven't been at it as long as I have, so that critiques are either useless because they don't know how, or useless because they live in fear of saying something mean, or useless because...well, fact is I've been at this a while and I usually have a pretty good idea what I need to know about a story, and what questions to ask a reader. When I ask a reader a question and they don't know what I mean because I'm speaking "writer-ese" and saying things like Point of View and Rising Action and Subplot, it's frustrating for everyone.

Yes, I'm trying to get into an MFA program. Ideally, such a program will be chock-full of people with my level or greater of writer-learning, Still, that's a ways off. I'm talking about NOW.

So, I'm quite aware that several of you are at least as knowledgeable, if not moreso, than I am on writer things. And a few of you are in similar straits, looking for a fresh opinion on your work and unable to coerce family and friends into giving you good feedback (or coming back into the house after they see you with a manuscript in your hands). Let's talk. Hell, let's talk to each other in a little group. You know, come out of the authorial cave, blink and tear up at the sunlight, and grunt meaningfully at each other.

You know where I am.

Side Note

I've got a bit of a Tori Amos song runnning in my head.

But I believe in peace,
I believe in peace, Bitch.
I believe in peace.

-Waitress

Innocent People

This is the post that I put up and took down yesterday. Yes, I modified it. I still feel this way.


I woke up this morning to the news of the blasts in London. I've been listening to the news since then. I keep hearing one phrase that won't leave me alone.

Innocent people.

I know what Bush and Blair and everyone else says when they say that, or at least what they intend. They mean all the people who are not directly involved in offending, harming, hurting, or interfering with those people who planted and exploded the bombs. The people who planted and exploded the bombs are terrorists. I'll agree with those definitions of "innocent people" and "terrorists" as far as they go. But I ponder them.

Terrorism is bullying, that's simple enough. It's saying "Do what I want you to do or I'll hurt you." And when I say it like that, I'm thinking about the military people we have in Iraq, of course. I'm thinking about how one's relative position changes one's perspective.

The US likes to picture itself as the hero, the good guy who steps between the bully and the victim and makes the bully run away, or teaches the bully that he can't get away with being a bully. We like to see ourselves as helping the victim stand up, handing him back his school books and giving him a handkerchief to wipe the blood off his face. Who doesn't want to see themselves as the hero? Who doesn't want to be the good guy? So that's a hero.

Bullies don't usually think of themselves as bullies. Often, they see themselves heroes. Heroes don't see themselves as bullies. And victims? Who wants to be the victim? That's the weakest position of all. Victims would rather be either a bully or a hero -- hero first, of course, but since bullies don't see themselves as bullies, either role works. Most importantly, in this triangle (as in so many relationships) one role does not exist without the other two, and all three can cycle around. A victim who stands up to his victimizer is a hero, right? If he decides to do to his victimizer what he percieves to have been done to him, then he becomes a bully. The former bully becomes a victim. A bully is a victim who wants to be a hero and goes too far.

It's like a mathematical equation. As power shifts between the three positions, the roles change. Everyone is a victim, a hero, or a bully, depending on how they see themselves and how others see them.

Then we get back to "innocent people". Innocent people are usually victims. Out of the blue, through no fault or action of their own, someone does something terrible to them. They have taken no action against anyone that connects directly to the equation. They are not in it until someone else acts. They are attacked by bullies. They need rescue by heroes. So how does it all start? Where does the bully come from? Back to the definition I'm using, that a bully starts out as a victim, who then acts to become a hero and goes too far, doing the same things that made him a victim, making others victims. Circle 'round and 'round, you come back to that equation, that transformation.

It starts through perception. Someone sees themself as suffering, looks for some cause or someone to blame, and becomes a victim. That's the only place I can see as an ultimate start. Fear starts it; fear of losing something, or of having lost something. Fear that if whatever it is must be shared, it won't be shared fairly, that one person needs or wants more. Fear. No great feat of thought there. Fear is the common thread. Fear creates bullies, victims and heroes. Oh, yes, heroes come about through fear.

Back to those "innocent people". What did they -- we, I? -- do to create fear in another person, a fear so great as to start the whole ball rolling? What did I not do? What can I do?

I don't know that. Sometimes it feels as if my very act of living creates fear for others. We don't live at peace in this world, because we don't agree on what constitutes "living" or "peace". We all think our particular way is the "right" way, and others should agree with us because we are so obviously right. Everyone else should live as we live, or keep their way of life away from us so we aren't contaminated by it, or just leave us alone because we fear and hate them. I don't know how to solve that.

But I am an "innocent person". I am a victim, a hero, and a bully. I know that, and I do not see how to escape it, since so much of which of those I am depends on who is looking at me. I can't do anything about that, not even hand out sunglasses.